Question & Answer Forum

Was the descent at the time of Pentecost gradual?

If the question refers to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, the answer is in verses 2 to 4 of Acts 2: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, … And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” With unexpected suddenness (Strong’s Dictionary), the sound filled the house, divided tongues (ESV) appeared and rested on the believers, the Holy Spirit filled them, and they spoke in tongues.

However, perhaps the question addresses the descent or decline of Israel’s place of privilege. During the period covered in the Book of Acts, the gospel went “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). In Ezekiel’s visions, the glory of the Lord gradually moved away from the temple, the land, and the nation. The Lord did not rush to withdraw from His people. The prophet received the message of judgment before the glory departed, but God carried out the judgment with apparent reluctance, which is both instructive and touching. So during the book of Acts, Israel’s removal from its position of privilege took place gradually. The Lord had announced it before the cross, and made it clear that the reason was the slaying of the beloved Son (Mat 21:33-43). He taught that after He ascended back to heaven, the nation would seal its doom by sending after Him the message, “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:12-14) and by declining the invitation of the King’s messengers (Mat 22:1-7). The same leaders who plotted the death of Christ sent their message of determined rejection (“We will not have this Man . . .”) back to heaven when they stoned Stephen (Acts 7). They imprisoned and beat the messengers (ch 5). They proved that their slaying of Christ was not accidental; they were not manslayers (Deu 19:1-4), but, as Stephen said (Acts 7:52), were murderers (Deu 19:11, 12). They had no refuge from the sword of judgment. As the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Rome in Acts, the Jewish leaders affirmed the nation’s rejection of Christ and His messengers, although individual Jews were saved.

The nation rejected Christ and His kingdom when they crucified Him. As the gospel spread, the nation’s rejection of the message spread; the pall of darkness and blindness (Rom 11:25) settled over Israel. With apparent reluctance, God gradually removed the place of privilege from the nation that had rejected His Son. That generation crucified the King and therefore would not share in His kingdom. That was settled before the beginning of Acts. During Acts, God gradually removed their place of privilege as the message went from Jerusalem to Rome. After the end of Acts, the army came from Rome to Jerusalem to destroy the city (Mat 22:7). The decline was gradual, but the result inevitable.

D. Oliver

Why did the Lord fast for 40 days when tempted by Satan?

Part of the answer to this question must lie in the significance of the number 40. The Lord tested Israel in the wilderness for 40 years (Deu 8:2). The rain came for 40 days in the Flood (Gen 7:4). After 40 days, Noah tested to see if the waters had receded (8:6). Moses’ 40 days on Sinai proved to be a test for the nation (Exo 24:18; 32:1-8). The spies “tested” Canaan for 40 days (Num 13:25). Goliath challenged Israel’s armies for 40 days (1Sa 17:16). Nineveh had 40 days, given by God to test its response to His Word (Jonah 3:4). So in the case of the Lord’s test or temptation, the Spirit associates with it the number 40.

When Ezekiel bore the iniquity of the house of Judah, God appointed his time as 40 days – a day for each year (Eze 4:6). In the Lord’s temptation is there, then, a connection of the 40 years of Israel’s independence of God, living with abundance in the wilderness, but demonstrating their own sinful hearts? Now in the wilderness with nothing material to sustain Him, the Lord experiences hunger, yet remains fully dependent on His God (“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” Mat 4:4). The 40 days – a day for a year – demonstrated His perfection. He was the Firstborn (the Beloved, Mat 3:17 with 4:1) Who gave the pleasure to God that the nation, God’s son, His firstborn (Exo 4:22), failed to give during those 40 years. The fact that the Lord’s responses to Satan all came from Deuteronomy creates a further association between these two wilderness scenes.

D. Oliver

Why was the Revelation given by God to Christ, Who gave it to John?

The heart of the Revelation is the vision John saw of the glorified Son of Man (1:13-18). That this revelation did not originate with Himself is in keeping with the Lord’s words during “the days of His flesh” (Heb 5:7): “I seek not Mine own glory” (John 8:50). His lowliness is unchanged as He sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).

In addition, the Father’s purpose is “that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). The Revelation then is an expansion of the Lord’s words that the Father “hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (v 22). Thus He honors His Son. But the same passage points out that He has authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man (5:27). Therefore, this is a vision of the Son of Man (Rev 1:13).

While on earth, the Son said, “I have not spoken from Myself” (John 12:49 JND). He was not the originator of His words. He said what His Father commanded Him to say. Highly exalted in the Revelation, He still is communicating what His Father wishes to reveal. His subjection to His Father will never end (1Co 15:28).

There are likely many other reasons for this order in revealing the Son of Man, but these are sufficient to bow our hearts in worship.

D. Oliver